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Botulism, What is it?
7/24/07 Ready for Anything

  Clostridium botulinum are a group of bacteria commonly found in soil. These bacteria release a nerve toxin that causes  paralysis. Adults generally get infected by eating contaminated food or by getting the bacteria in a open wound. Infants sometimes put contaminated objects into their mouth. Botulism is a medical emergency and can be fatal. About 110 cases of Botulism are reported in the U.S. every year. The symptoms include

  • double vision
  • blurred vision
  • drooping eyelids
  • slurred speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • dry mouth, and muscle weakness

Infants with botulism appear

  • lethargic
  • feed poorly
  • are constipated
  • have a weak cry
  • poor muscle tone.

These are the initial symptoms of muscle paralysis. If untreated arms, legs and eventually breathing can be affected. Symptoms generally begin in 18 to 36 hours after being infected, but they may begin within 6 hours or take as long as 10 days to develop.

  Antitoxins are used to treat botulism in the early stages, later stages may require hospitalization to keep the patient alive due to the effects of the toxin. Because of effective treatments very few patients die of botulism, if medical treatment isn't available up to 50% of infected individuals may not survive.

CDC Quote,

"Botulism can be prevented. Foodborne botulism has often been from home-canned foods with low acid content, such as asparagus, green beans, beets and corn. However, outbreaks of botulism from more unusual sources such as chopped garlic in oil, chile peppers, tomatoes, improperly handled baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil, and home-canned or fermented fish. Persons who do home canning should follow strict hygienic procedures to reduce contamination of foods. Oils infused with garlic or herbs should be refrigerated. Potatoes which have been baked while wrapped in aluminum foil should be kept hot until served or refrigerated. Because the botulism toxin is destroyed by high temperatures, persons who eat home-canned foods should consider boiling the food for 10 minutes before eating it to ensure safety. Instructions on safe home canning can be obtained from county extension services or from the US Department of Agriculture. Because honey can contain spores of Clostridium botulinum and this has been a source of infection for infants, children less than 12 months old should not be fed honey. Honey is safe for persons 1 year of age and older. Wound botulism can be prevented by promptly seeking medical care for infected wounds and by not using injectable street drugs."


For more information USDA Home Canning Guide




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